By FREDERIC MUSISI(The Daily Monitor)
European Union Head of Delegation to Uganda Attilio Pacifici has asked government to “make known” findings of the investigation into plunder of money and relief items for refugees and prosecute the culprits.
Amb Pacifici made the call on Wednesday while speaking at the commemoration of 68 years of European Integration commonly known as Europe Day at his residence in Kololo, Kampala.
Celebrations for this year’s Europe Day focused on cultural heritage and the EU envoy revealed that they are supporting the Kampala Art biennale, which will allow young artists apprentice with seven known masters to identify historical buildings in Kampala, Entebbe and Jinja “to prepare for their protection and future restoration.”
“Our position, and that of government, has been firm and clear from the onset: Zero tolerance to fraud and to any misconduct. The investigations launched need to continue and to be concluded,” he said.
The government and UN aid agencies were early this year thrown into the spotlight after it emerged that officials from both sides were involved in abuse of refugees and plunder of refugee funds and other resources.
The impropriety included creation of ghost refugees, misappropriation of relief funds, food items, money and sex extortion of refuges in exchange for services or assistance and scholarships for refugees being diverted to Ugandans through corruption.
The exposure of the scam followed a spot-check in Kampala when more than 26,000 refugees, who were purportedly receiving assistance, were asked to show up personally and collect their share. Only about 7,000 showed up, suggesting about 19,000 were “ghosts” whose money and other resources share had been pocketed by corrupt individuals.
The scam prompted the UNHCR High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi to visit Uganda on January 30.
His visit triggered investigations and suspension of senior officials in the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM).
Uganda with a refugee population of nearly 1.4 million is ranked the second largest refugee hosting country in the world after Turkey.
On refugee assistance, Amb Pacifici said the EU solidarity is “beyond doubt”.
He cited last June’s Solidarity Summit convened by the Uganda government and the UN in Kampala. It was attended by dignitaries from Asia, Oceania, Africa and North America and Brussels pledged €uros85m (about Shs336b).
The EU is Uganda’s second largest bilateral partner with aid commitment of €uros578m (about Shs2.1 trillion) between 2014 and 2020.
Amb Pacifici commended President Museveni for continuing to engage with EU in “candid dialogue” and challenges facing the European Union, citing regional issues such as the volatile Somalia where Uganda maintains more than 6,000 troops under the African Union Mission in Somalia.
The Prime Minister, Dr Ruhakana Rugunda, commended the EU for its support to Uganda and highlighted government’s commitment to continue working together.
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